Sidra Medicine (a member of Qatar Foundation) has been awarded a grant, to the value of one million US dollars from JDRF, the leading global type 1 diabetes (T1D) research and advocacy organization. The awarded grant will support the establishment of a program in Qatar that combines autoantibody and genetic screening for children with T1D.
Titled "DIA-MENA: Type 1 Diabetes Islet Autoantibody Screening Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa", the program will initially pilot autoantibody and genetic screenings in Qatar, aiming to predict the future risks of T1D in children. The pilot will form the basis to establish national pediatric T1D autoantibody screenings across the country; which can serve as a model for the rest of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The awarded grant, which was won by Dr. Ammira Al Shabeeb Akil, lead principal investigator and head of the Precision Medicine for Diabetes Prevention lab at Sidra Medicine, will encompass a comprehensive research-based screening program over the span of four years. Key support will be provided by Sidra Medicines precision medicine program, pathology, genetics and genomic medicine clinics.
Dr. Ammira Akil said in a statement today that most global screening initiatives to identify children at high risk of developing T1D have targeted relatives of individuals living with the disease. However, latest data shows that more than 85 per cent of the children who end up with T1D, do not have affected relatives with the same disease. By combining the comprehensive islet autoantibodies and genetic risk scores testing, we intend to detect and provide estimates of the prevalence of early-stage T1D in children.
Dr. Akil concluded, "This award also highlights that Qatar and Sidra Medicines specialist childrens services and technologies are in a strong position to make such programs a reality. In fact, for the first time, the autoantibody testing and results interpretation will be carried out at Sidra Medicine, as currently patient samples are sent abroad for testing. Early risk identification for T1D can help avoid life-threatening complications, develop preventative therapies and allow patient families and doctors to create a plan for ongoing monitoring to prevent an unanticipated emergency diagnosis." Through the JDRF grant and in partnership with the Qatar Genome Program and the Primary Health Care Corporation, Dr. Akils team will embark on a combined screening pilot program on young children from the ages of 1 years to 14 years old; using a small blood sample and pathology-based testing technology that has been developed in-house at Sidra Medicine by Dr. Akils team.
For his part, Chief Research Officer at Sidra Medicine Dr. Khalid Fakhro said, "Establishing the foundation of T1D national screening will have an immediate and long-term impact on patients in Qatar and worldwide. It will serve as the basis for pre-diabetes screening in the general pediatric and young adult population in Qatar and act as a model approach for the rest of region and beyond. In the long term, robust screening programs can help with early detection before the onset of symptoms, and make our patients eligible for approved disease-modifying treatments or to take part in clinical trials in the future."
Source: Qatar News Agency